Welcome to another edition of News in Asia; same great column, different time slot. This week we have some cool news coming out of South Asia involving women, including a new female Pakistani superhero and your other assortment of news both awesome and not-so-awesome from Asia.
The governor of Bamyan province and Afghanistan’s only female provincial chief, Habiba Sarabi, was awarded The Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is referred to as Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize. Sarabi was awarded the honor in recognition of her work promoting girls’ education and fighting for environmental protections. The award was established in 1957 to honor Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay and promote “integrity in government, services to the people and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.”
A politician who actually keeps his promises, President Thein Sein released 73 Burmese political prisoners under presidential amnesty. President Sein promised that he would release all political prisoners by the end of the year as the country moves closer to a democratic system of government.
As many in the States and parts of Europe look upon their economic futures with fear and trembling, consumer confidence in Asia is at an all-time high with Indonesia registering as the most confident globally. Factors that contribute to the confidence include dynamic economic growth and an expanding middle class.
This is not the cool news out of South Asia: Congress threatened to significantly cut aid to Afghanistan because of plans to institute an exit tax over American military equipment, food supplies and other goods. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called the tax “ridiculous” since we’ve spent a dozen years helping make the country stable. Really? Are we now changing what defines stability here? The threat is to withhold “five dollars in foreign aid to Afghanistan for every one dollar in fees imposed on the United States for repatriating any property.”
This is also not included in the good news: Perma, Pakistan’s media regulator, pulled a contraceptive ad from Pakistani TV after complaints of immorality. The ad is 50 seconds long and features Mathira, who is a popular model and actress. Complaints cited the ad as, “Immoral, indecent and in sheer disregard to our socio-cultural and religious values.”According to the United Nations, a third of Pakistanis have no access to birth control.
In better news, a Taliban commander expressed regret over the assassination attempt of Malala Yousafzai. From the story, it’s unclear if the act itself was regretted or simply the attention the attack brought to the issue of girls’ education in Pakistan.
Contaminated school lunches killed 22 children in India last week.
President Obama has nominated Caroline Kennedy as the new U.S. ambassador to Japan.
Finally in news that is pretty cool, GeoTv is set to release Pakistan’s first animated series, Burka Avenger, about a female school teacher who fights local thugs trying to close her school using martial art skills and a burka to hide her identity. The series was created by one of Pakistan’s biggest pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid. The website and trailers in English and Urdu can be found here (there’s also an iPhone app, too).